Researcher & Professor at the University eCampus Faculty of Engineering. NASA Genelab member AWG AI/ML. Intellisystem Technologies Founder.
Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms are an integral part of our modern lives, influencing everything from online ads to recommendations on streaming platforms. Although they may not be inherently biased, they have the power to perpetuate societal inequality and cultural biases. This question may raise serious concerns about the impact of technology on marginalized communities, especially people with disabilities.
The Real Problem
One of the critical reasons behind AI algorithmic biases is the lack of access with data for target populations. Historical exclusion from research and statistics leaves these groups underrepresented in the training data of AI algorithms. As a result, the algorithms may need help to accurately understand and respond to the unique needs and characteristics of those people.
Algorithms also often simplify and generalize the parameters of the target audience, using proxies to make predictions or decisions. This oversimplification can lead to stereotyping and can reinforce existing biases.
How can AI differentiate
For example, AI systems can distinguish individuals by facial differences, asymmetry or speech impairments. Even different gestures, gestures and communication patterns can be misinterpreted, further marginalizing certain groups.
Individuals with physical disabilities or cognitive and sensory impairments, as well as those who are autistic, are vulnerable to AI algorithmic discrimination. According to s report by the OECD, “police and autonomous security systems and military AI may falsely identify assistive devices as weapons or dangerous objects.” Misrecognition of facial or speech patterns can have dire consequences, creating immediate life-threatening situations for those affected.
Identifying These Concerns
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as disability organizations such as the EU Disability Forum, have awareness raised under influence algorithmic pups on marginalized communities. It is vital to address these issues and ensure that technological advances no longer place disabled people at a disadvantage.
Discrimination against disabled people stems from various physical, cognitive and social parameters. AI algorithmic design and decision-making processes must promote inclusiveness and diversity in data collection.
In addition, raising awareness about algorithmic biases and educating developers, policy makers and society is essential. We can work towards a fairer and more unbiased technology by fostering a better understanding of the potential harms of algorithms. Regular audits and evaluations of algorithmic systems are also essential to identify and correct emerging biases.
Overcoming Algorithmic Bias Issues
As an AI expert with over 20 years of experience in this field, concerted efforts are needed to address the underlying challenges to overcome the issue of algorithmic biases due to the lack of access to data for target populations. Here are some strategies to consider:
1. Improve data collection and presentation. Actively work towards collecting more diverse and representative data that includes individuals from target populations. It may involve communities, organizations and advocacy groups to gain their perspective and experience on the data used for training algorithms.
2. Ethical data sourcing. Apply ethical guidelines for data collection to ensure it respects the rights and privacy of individuals from target populations. Engage in responsible data practices that involve obtaining informed consent and protecting personal information to build trust and encourage participation.
3. Address historical exclusion. Recognizing and correcting the historical exclusion of marginalized communities from research and statistics. Collaborate with these communities to understand their unique needs and challenges, and actively engage them in data collection to include their voice.
4. Use of proxies and comprehensive features. Avoid oversimplification and generalization of target group parameters (proxies) in algorithm design. Instead, the aim of incorporating a wide range of features to accurately capture the diversity within the target populations can help prevent stereotyping and biases as a result of inadequate representation.
5. Incorporate fairness measures. Applying fairness measures to algorithm development and evaluation processes involves testing algorithms for differential impacts and ensuring that they perform equally well across different demographic groups. If biases occur, iterate the algorithms and data to reduce or eliminate those biases.
6. Increase transparency and accountability. Making the algorithmic processes more open and accessible to scrutiny. Communicate how decisions were made, and hold developers and stakeholders accountable for emerging biases. Encourage external audits and evaluations to provide independent assessments of algorithmic systems.
7. Diverse teams and interdisciplinary collaboration. Ensure teams include individuals from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. This can bring different perspectives to the table during algorithm development and mitigate biases. Encourage interdisciplinary collaboration between data scientists, ethicists, domain experts and community representatives to ensure a holistic approach to addressing algorithmic biases.
8. Continuous monitoring and evaluation. Regular monitoring and evaluation of the algorithms’ performance in real-world contexts can help identify and correct biases that may develop over time and continuously improve the fairness and accuracy of the enable algorithm.
Overcoming algorithmic biases requires a comprehensive approach that includes collaboration, inclusiveness, ethical practices and ongoing evaluation to ensure that algorithms accurately understand and respond to each person’s unique needs and characteristics.
AI algorithms themselves may not create biases, but they have the power to perpetuate societal inequities and cultural prejudices. Lack of access to data, historical exclusion, simplification of parameters and unconscious biases within society contribute to the algorithmic discrimination.
It is our collective responsibility to expose the role of algorithms in perpetuating these biases and work towards creating a more inclusive and equitable technology landscape. By doing so, we can ensure that algorithms act as tools of empowerment rather than discriminators.